The decision by an automotive business to close its site due to uncertainty surrounding Brexit was described as the “the tremor that will lead to the Brexit earthquake” in the Welsh Assembly today.
The global firm Schaeffler said it was closing the plant in Llanelli where 220 people are employed. It has started a 45-day consultation on the plans.
Juergen Ziegler, the company’s regional CEO, said that the “need to plan for various complex scenarios” due to Brexit had played a part in the decision.
“A global business needs to regularly review market conditions and strive to optimise its footprint across different regions,” he said.
“The proposed measures we have taken for the UK reflect this business reality.”
Llanelli was one of the local authorities in Wales that voted to leave the EU in July 2016, by 56.7%.
Speaking in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price described the closure as the beginning of an earthquake set off by Brexit.
He also described the Labour Welsh Government as being “asleep at the wheel as we are being driven off a cliff” after it became apparent that they had only learnt of the closure this morning.
First Minister Carwyn Jones, however, pointed the finger at the UK Government and called on them to deliver a “deal that protects Welsh jobs and the economy”.
“Whilst we will do everything we can to support the workers at Schaeffler, the UK Government has serious questions to answer,” he said.
“We’ve raised time and again the detrimental impact their approach to Brexit is having.
“Businesses need clarity and confidence that a deal will be struck which does not adversely affect them. This has been woefully lacking and is already costing jobs in Wales.
“The UK Government must now deliver a deal that protects Welsh jobs and our economy and stop peddling the myth that ‘no deal’ is a viable option.”
Llanelli MP Nia Griffiths said that the loss of over 200 “highly-skilled” jobs would be a “big loss for our community”.
She said that she and Llanelli AM Lee Waters “will do everything we can to persuade Schaeffler to keep the local plant open”.
“I have already written to the UK Government urging them to do the same.”
Lee Waters said that the announcement by Schaeffler was “very troubling”.
“It is worrying that the company mentioned ‘uncertainty surrounding Brexit’ as one factor behind the decision to leave Wales,” he said.
“We’ve been warning for over two years that our future access to the single market needs to be secured, but the failure of the UK Government to agree a deal has created huge uncertainty for businesses which has clearly been a big factor in 220 jobs in Llanelli being under threat.”
Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales Helen Mary Jones said it was “just the first step in the destruction of the manufacturing industry in Wales”.
“With the almost identical and equally destructive Brexit policies of the Conservatives and Labour, Wales faces an economic onslaught from Brexit with our communities paying the price.
“This will be the economic reality of Brexit. We need certainty on the negotiations before March. Without clarity we will be facing a Blind Brexit, with the business critical detail decided from a position of weakness outside Europe.
“Labour must change its policy and realise that the best option for Welsh businesses is to stay in the single market and the Customs Union.
“At this time of economic turmoil Wales needs more than a lethargic Labour party and callous Conservative party, both pursuing policies in their own interest and against those of our nation.”